It is my pleasure to welcome Caroline Sun to the Feiwel and Friends group as our new Publicist. Caroline has worked in the publicity department for G.P. Putnam’s Sons and Riverhead Books, and most recently as a Publicist for Harper Perennial and Harper Paperbacks. Her background includes working with Michael Chabon, Ann Patchett, Vikram Chandra, Clive Cussler, Dave Barry, W.E.B. Griffin, and Robert B. Parker. She is eager to jump into the world of children’s books and we are thrilled that she has joined our group of Feiwel Friends. —Elizabeth Fithian, Marketing Director
After graduating from college with a degree in English Lit, Caroline, much to her parents’ dismay, tried to execute that time-worn cliché of “running away to join the circus.” She applied to two positions at Barnum & Bailey’s—one was for a line cook on the traveling train (hey, there could have been a book there); the other was for a Field Marketing Rep (to appease the parents). Sadly, the circus did not want her. Born and raised in Brooklyn, Caroline proceeded to live out the other post-graduate cliché of “living in her parent’s basement” and backpacking around the world over the next few years—the Alps (pictured above in front of Mont Blanc), SE Asia, the UK, etc. She has worked in book publicity for more than three years, but this is her first venture into the children’s side of things. She enjoys writing, too, though she finds writing this blurb in third person rather awkward.
After graduating from college with a degree in English Lit, Caroline, much to her parents’ dismay, tried to execute that time-worn cliché of “running away to join the circus.” She applied to two positions at Barnum & Bailey’s—one was for a line cook on the traveling train (hey, there could have been a book there); the other was for a Field Marketing Rep (to appease the parents). Sadly, the circus did not want her.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Caroline proceeded to live out the other post-graduate cliché of “living in her parent’s basement” and backpacking around the world over the next few years—the Alps (pictured above in front of Mont Blanc), SE Asia, the UK, etc. She has worked in book publicity for more than three years, but this is her first venture into the children’s side of things. She enjoys writing, too, though she finds writing this blurb in third person rather awkward.
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The F&F Team
Dave Barrett is our Managing Editor, and probably has the neatest desk in the office.
What's on my desk is not very much at all [aside from a handful of ZAC POWER proofs I'm reviewing] because when I work on something, I tend to focus all of my energies into that one thing and all distractions [& piles of papers, folders, book jackets in various stages, etc.] are placed on a bookshelf or chair directly behind me. There's also my 2 greatest & oldest resources [a dictionary & the Chicago Manual of Style] beneath my phone, a tiny fan [left over from an older, AC-less office], my water glass, my computer, and probably the most invaluable thing in my office, my desk calendar blotter, which has pretty much my whole life written on it. When someone inquires if I'm around on such-and-such a date, I always reply that I'll have to check my calendar and get back to them. And I'm not talking about a Blackberry or other digital planner so much as I'm saying I have to go to my office and look on a giant piece of paper to determine my availability. The modern world, eh?
As for the wall above it, there are pictures of my brother's kids & my girlfriend, signed CDs by Greg Dulli & Joe Jackson, a framed print I bought in Madrid specifically for my office @ F&F right before I began interviewing for the job, and [surprise-surprise] another, smaller calendar that reminds me that life is an unending struggle of pain & busted heels: my running schedule. I partake in a bunch of road races every year [some taking place as far away as the left coast] and have to get out on my feet a bunch of times a week so I don't embarrass myself when those starting guns go off. [Or at least embarrass myself any further than I already am in my shiny neoprene outfits.]
Here’s what our Publisher, Jean Feiwel, has to say:
What’s on my desk is a thoughtfully layered mess of work to do that from left to right includes:
Folders for scheduling Square fish and Feiwel and Friends titles, Negotiation in Progress Contract files, my Oxford Dictionary, basket of business cards that is supposed to be on my computer file but I haven’t transferred all of them yet and it looks like I have a lot of friends so I like looking at them, stack of catalogues, tip sheets in various stages of completion for the many presentations of titles we give here at Macmillan, the center of my desk with the pile of stuff I’m supposed to be working on TODAY. The pile in front of my phone is a stack of phone messages from day to day that I’m pretty good about returning. And then I have various talismans, blackberry, cell phone, calculator (so I know I’m spending too much money on everything), rubber French fries from Liz Szabla, good luck pieces, toys and mementos that protect me and make me feel good, and I try not to eat them. And the pictures I’m looking at are all of my daughter, my dog, my family.
Check back next Thursday to see another desk in our office!
With my position as the Editorial Assistant for Feiwel and Friends, I read a lot. About a week ago, someone posed the question to me, "How many books have you ever read?" My response was kind of like, "Err . . .who’s counting?" But, I actually did think about it, and in my whole life, it’s probably a number closer to one thousand than one hundred. My dad likes to joke with me that I read more books by the time I was ten than he has in his whole life.
With a great majority of those books lately being submissions, you can probably already guess that I am very picky about what I read. I’ve also developed a problem that is probably kind of usual among editors, but has been an unpleasant surprise for me because I’m still new at this. I often finish reading a book, only to decide it was good, but it still needed just a Little More Editing.
For me, that was not the case with Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, our book club’s pick for this month. Okay, not everyone liked it. The biggest complaint that most people had was that it was difficult to get into, or that it felt like the big surprise of the story was given away too close to the beginning.
For me, this big surprise was what made me unable to put the book down.
The story is narrated by Cal, a middle-aged hermaphrodite who started life as a girl, and who will finish as a man. He takes us on the journey of the gene that made him this way, starting with his grandparents’ secretly scandalous love affair in Greece, through his parents, and their equally awkward romantic situation, continuing to himself. This book reminded me of a modern-day male equivalent to Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, about a prince who starts the story as a man, and very subtly evolves until he is a woman by the end.
I found it fascinating to observe through Cal the different nuances of the sexes, and the true meaning of sex and gender, nature and nurture and how it affects a person. There was a lot going on with the narration and the dialogue, and a whole slew of English-teacher questions I found myself thinking up.
Last Thursday, the book club gathered for Italian food (breadsticks, yum), and discussed all the "what-if’s" in the story. What if Cal’s parents knew when he was a baby that he was an XY chromosome make-up instead of XX? What if Callie (before the name was changed to the masculine Cal) stayed the way she was?
I would thoroughly recommend exploring this book.
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve had a hard time keeping up with what people were reading, watching on television, listening to on the radio . . . what was new, in, or out . . . I’ve never seemed to have a clue. I just traveled by my own available light, sought out things that appealed to me, and pretty much lived in my own little world. Not much has changed in my adulthood and as such, historically, when I’ve discovered something of interest to share with friends, family, or co-workers, I realized that I was way behind the times.
About six weeks ago I was looking on Amazon for something and came across Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants which immediately piqued my interest. I came to work the next day and suggested to Jessica (the self-proclaimed and well-deserved "Book Club Czar") that we put this on the reading list. In typical fashion, it was already on Jessica’s list of books to read, and a few other friends of mine had either read it already or were wanting to. Once again, I figured it out late. Having already finished The Road, our book club selection at the time, I decided I’d pick up Water for Elephants whether or not it was to make its way into the hands of my fellows. I couldn’t put it down:
Water for Elephants tells the story of Jacob Jankowski, an old man currently living in a nursing home who worked for a train-traveling Depression-era circus many, many, many years earlier. It is a marvelously told, finely researched, unstoppable tale of how Jacob went from being a veterinary student at Cornell to taking care of the ill-kept menagerie of the Benzini Brothers Circus and just how much his life changed the moment he stepped foot on that train.
Filled with freaks, drunks, rubes, performers, roustabouts, dogs, monkeys, and of course, an elephant, Water for Elephants is an exciting and thrilling yet poignantly human story that is not to be missed.
The good news is that during our discussion of The Road it was agreed that Water for Elephants (which of course was already on everyone’s reading list) would be the next book; I was already half-way through it.
Last Thursday seven of us met for Thai food and book discussion. Far as I could tell, almost all of us enjoyed the book though the conversation seemed to be more about our individual thoughts on Prohibition, human and animal abuse, class division, and for some reason I can’t recall—living in London. We read through some of the discussion questions at the back of the book, but they often provoked dialogue on subjects other than the content of the book itself. I don’t think straying from the book had anything to do with anyone’s dislike or distaste for the book. I just think that when seven women get together over good food, the conversation can go anywhere . . . we got away from our desks for a while and had a lot of laughs!
—Nicole Moulaison Next month, Book Club will be reading Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Next month, Book Club will be reading Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
My parents, grandmother, and even my parents’ old college professor would each read to me, but the book that stands out the most is In Desert and Wilderness, a Polish novel by Henryk Sienkiewicz written in the early 1900s. My mom would read to me from the old edition she had from when she was younger.
The book is about two English children, a boy and a girl, who are in Africa on vacation and are kidnapped by anti-British rebels. They manage to escape, and with their friends, Kali and Mea, and their faithful dog, Saba, they all trek across the African desert until they are rescued by a British expedition. My mom never finished reading it to me, but rather we would always start to read the book over and over, and I really can’t remember why we would start-and-stop-and-start. I watched the Polish movie many times and I was determined to read the whole book when I got older. I eventually did end up reading it on my own. I managed to get a first edition English copy off of eBay and read it when I was in high school. However, I know I have to re-read it, and this time in Polish, along with a whole slew of other Polish books.
Being read to in Polish definitely helped me continue to appreciate my heritage as I grew up so far away from my home country. And I truly cannot wait to read In Desert and Wilderness to my own children someday . . . in Polish.
— Ksenia Winnicki
In my shared job as publicist for Feiwel and Friends, Square Fish, AND Macmillan Audio, I'm in the unique and fun position of having my audio colleagues come by often to get book suggestions for their children and other friends and family. I always appreciate and so enjoy getting to share my thoughts and bookshelves with them, but I have to say the highlight thus far has been the day my co-worker’s young son stopped by to visit his mother, and I was able to read aloud with him for a few minutes.
It was toward the end of the day, and my colleague was trying to wrap some things up, so Connor and I sat down together and read Jake Stays Awake by Michael Wright (one of the books from Feiwel and Friends’ debut list). I had, of course, read this witty picture book several times before, but—not having any kids of my own—had never read it aloud to a child, and my brief time with Connor reminded me of the wonder and amusement that children can get from reading aloud with parents, siblings, and older friends.
It seems unbelievable that I could forget this, in my job and our industry, but I think that occasionally the many day-to-day tasks and hectic prioritizing make it hard to keep an eye on the bigger picture and goal: bringing joy and an appetite for learning to children through books. Reading aloud to a child is such a wonderful way to immediately remind myself of that end goal in my job, and to also make me look forward to reading to my own children one day!
My mom has told me that when I was little, my favorite thing to do was gather a stack of books and sit on her lap to read. This could hold my attention better than anything else, except maybe sitting on the patio at my art table. We read Leo Lionni. We found Judith Viorst’s Alexander, Who’s Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean It!) Going to Move particularly important. We read James Marshall’s George and Martha books, and a story about a turtle with a toothache that I can’t remember the title of, over and over again. At night, my dad would read to me.
The only thing was, like everything else in life, I wanted to be able to Do It Myself. When I was four and a half, my aunt came to our house with a box full of books that were supposed to teach me to read. They were being passed to me after my cousins had used them to learn to read, and my family would pass them on to the next family member. To me, these books were the next closest thing to magic. I begged my mom to start teaching me. I knew I was ready. I knew some big door was going to open up if I just got the hang of this reading thing.
I remember my mom telling me we would start with just one book. But I read that book quickly, and went on to the next, voraciously reading like my life depended on it. It probably took me a lot longer than I remember it taking to finish all of the readers, but once I did, I found a copy of Go Dog, Go! and began reading it to anyone who would listen to me. By the end of kindergarten, I was stealing my mom’s childhood books. At first, I would just stare at their jackets. I found The Little House in the Big Wood’s particularly enchanting, with fold-out flaps that allowed you to see inside the entire little house. I spent first and second grade reading my mom’s Charlotte’s Web, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, and of course, The Little House in the Big Woods, which I read over and over again before deciding it would be a good idea to move on to the next book in the series.
If I hadn’t been read to so young, I don’t know that I would have fallen head-over-heels in love with books. And if that hadn’t happened to me, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
Over the last couple of weekends I had the privilege of participating in a “Heritage Storytelling Project” at my friend’s son’s grade school. Through words, images and sounds, parents and their children told family stories with the intention of preserving their familial culture and values.
On the first weekend, with the help of a professional storyteller, the families wove and finessed their tales spanning from great-great-great-great grandparents to the current generation. On the second weekend, they produced booklets and posters to preserve these stories as a keepsake. The enthusiasm and honesty of the participating families stirred up an energy which warmed everyone’s hearts. Especially the children’s. Not only were these children delighted to participate in telling their stories, they were overjoyed at the gift of having their parents’ undivided attention for four continuous hours.
In this age of hardworking parents, time that used to be spent with families is now spent with the parents working and the kids playing in their own little worlds. Family time has changed. The insights gleaned through this Heritage Storytelling Project helped us all see how much of a treasure our own family experiences are and brought back the importance of strengthening our family bonds.
My childhood family was a small immigrant family of four from Poland. I was four years old when my family arrived in Canada to a new culture and new language. We were monetarily poor, but my parents’ thoughtfulness, ingenuity, determination and integrity never let us feel it. One of my favorite weekly rituals was our visit to the Toronto Public Library. In those days it was located on the edge of the University of Toronto campus. The main portion of the library was in an imposing building, but nestled behind it was a welcoming small building with large low windows: the Children’s Library.
Every Saturday, we would walk as a family to see the puppet show at the Children’s Library, after which we were set free to scout out the next books to bring home. My older brother had a specific preference for non-fiction and always found something quickly. I had more trouble choosing—there was so much to choose from!
In the afternoons, wrapped between my parents’ arms and the covers of our books, my brother and I would read our English books to our parents. It was a challenge especially at first, since none of us spoke English. My brother and I picked this new language up quickly, and for that moment, we were our parents’ first teachers of English.
At bedtime, my parents would choose books from our own shelves. They were books that we brought with us from Poland, and books that our relatives would send. They had silver-painted twigs enclosed in the covers. We were the little branch that traveled across the ocean, part of a larger family that stayed in Poland.
We were inspired by Barbara’s experiences to spend the next two days talking about our own families, and the gift of reading we feel is so vital to our own heritage and ourselves. All the times we’ve been read to, and the time we’ve spent reading to others. We hope you can take the time to look back on your own history with books, and read to someone today.
I am a reader because of my parents. Reading and books were a comfortable, natural part of our family’s rhythm. My sister and I were read to, taken to the library, and given books as gifts. I honor the memory of my parents each time I read to my son. I started soon after he was born.
Reading to Sam helped fill the empty spaces that my mother and father should have inhabited in our lives. I lost them too soon, and I longed for them in new ways once I became a parent.
Sam is eight years old now. I read to Sam and remember the sound of my father’s voice when he read to my sister and me, gentle and melodic. I read to Sam and think of how my mother would have delighted in seeing him experience Charlotte’s Web and The Phantom Tollbooth for the first time, and how they would have bonded over books. I watch my son as he lies on his stomach on the floor, lost in the world of a novel, or a comic book, or the notebook he writes his own stories in, and I am full of love for my parents, my boy, and life.
My mother and I are both voracious readers and have always been. One of my favorite childhood memories revolves around this love of books and our deep affection for literature.
When we lived in France, my mother used to take my sister and me to the public library in Tours (as a child, the library seemed ENORMOUS, and it was always a place of wonder. I remember, specifically, art projects and banners depicting animals, numbers, and, of course, books, that hung on the walls. I remember the quiet within the stacks and how peaceful I felt there—though I must admit that deep down I was bursting with excitement).
We lived about a half hour away from the library, and yet, we walked there every single week and checked out the maximum amount of books (in our case, eight). I will always, always, always have that image of the three of us walking through the streets of Tours with a teetering stack of picture books in our hands. The stack always seemed so massive to me and in a way, it was, but it was never an option to take home any less than those eight books a week.
When we finally arrived back at our apartment, we would climb into my bed, my mother nestled between my sister and me, and read the Angelina Ballerina series by Katharine Holabird and Helen Craig, among other titles. My sister and I learned valuable life lessons from all those library books, and I am forever grateful that my mother taught us the meaning of reading together at such an early age. That time was our time to explore new lands and experience adventures with characters we could only dream of meeting in real life! For an hour or two, our imaginations ran wild and free. Anything was possible. What I love most about this particular childhood memory, is that it reminds me that books are what brought my sister, my mother, and me together in a way that nothing else could.
Hush, and I’ll Read You a Story…
I was almost twelve when my brother was born. My family was going through a rough patch. My father, whom I adored (I had always been “Daddy’s Little Girl”), had moved out, and I had just reached the point where I had decided it was better to be an only child. I did not need, or want, a little brother right then. He took a lot of my parent’s attention away, when I was sure that I needed it more; later, when my father eventually moved back in, I was positive it had much more to do with my brother than anything to do with missing me. It was a rough time and it was made worse by the fact that my brother was a brat. He was the baby and everyone (except me, obviously) gave in to him all the time.
I’m convinced that my brother has a deep-seated need to be the center of attention, and he hates to be by himself. But I’ve always been a sucker for babies and small children, and while my parents were busy dealing with marriage, work, and other time consuming things, someone had to watch my brother. Fortunately, he loved to be read to, and I love to read.
He would curl up next to me on the bed, and I would read, while he tried to follow along and examined any pictures available. At first it was just something to keep my brother quiet and amused, but it turned into something more. It was a common interest, which soon became a habit, and then a tradition, so that even when my parents weren’t busy and were available to read to him, my brother would ask for me.
Of course, it helped that I would insert sound effects and different accents and voices for the characters. I also insisted that I pick out the books, so a) we were reading books we would both enjoy; b) we didn’t read the same books over and over (although we would occasionally re-read favorites); and c) the books were much more interesting and challenging for him than the smaller books he (or my parents) picked out on their own. I started out with Dr. Seuss and picture books, but we quickly moved on to The Chronicles of Narnia, A Wrinkle in Time, and Harry Potter.
The bedtime stories went on for years (I was in college before we stopped), and reading became an important cornerstone in our relationship. We might fuss and fight all day long, but when it was time for bed, it would all be forgotten, while we curled up together and lost ourselves in whichever adventure we were in the middle of that night. It was definitely a bonding experience that left lasting impressions. Even today, my fifteen-year-old brother will call me with questions like “I’m bored. What should I read now?” or “Did you read this book? It’s great. I really loved this and this, and my favorite part was when he . . . .”
It’s a lot of fun.
Jean Feiwel, our lovely boss, was a guest on "The Leonard Lopate Show" March 3. She has become somewhat of a legend in the children's book industry, and is the brains behind such series as The Baby-Sitters' Club, Goosebumps, Dear America, and Magic School Bus. She also published, dare we say it, Harry Potter. It's no surprise to us that someone else wanted to talk to her about what she does best!
Jean Feiwel, Senior Vice President and Publisher of Feiwel and Friends and Square Fish, was a guest on the March 3rd, 2008 1:30pm to 2:00pm segment discussing “What Makes a Best-selling Children’s Book?”
Jean appeared along with Diane Roback, Senior Children’s Editor at Publishers Weekly, and Micha Hershman, a manager of Borders Group's children's department.
Listen to the clip below.
You can also visit the WNYC website here to listen to the segment. Enjoy!
-- Liz Noland